Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Thursday there have been 49 cases of the Zika virus in New York as he announced a plan to find and kill mosquitoes with the virus and help New Yorkers prevent infection.
“The main health concern is primarily for pregnant women,” Cuomo said at a news conference in Manhattan. “But there are also cases beyond birth defects where people have been infected by the virus and suffered paralysis and even death. So it is something to be taken seriously.”
There have been 27 cases reported outside New York City and 22 in the city, said Dr. Howard Zucker, state Health commissioner. He said five of the victims are pregnant women.
Cuomo said the cases reported in New York so far have been limited to Long Island, New York City and its northern suburbs.
The infection, which can cause severe birth defects, is being spread by mosquitoes in countries in parts of Latin America. Many of the cases reported in New York have involved people who have traveled from such areas, health officials said.
The virus can be transmitted by mosquito and by sexual contact, Cuomo said.
Cuomo announced that the state will post warnings at airports and other entry points to advise travelers that they may have contracted the virus.
He also said thousands of free kits will be distributed to pregnant women containing information, tablets that can kill mosquitoes in standing water and condoms.
The state’s six-point plan includes setting traps to collect and test 60,000 mosquitoes a month in the state’s laboratory in Albany. A “rapid response team” will be sent to areas where cases are found. The teams will include officials from the departments of health, environmental conservation and emergency management.
County health departments also will have to create local response plans.
Cuomo said mosquitoes have a life span of just about three weeks and their range rarely exceeds 200 yards of where they were hatched. The mosquito season in New York is April to September.
Symptoms include fever, rashes, joint pain, red eyes and sometimes muscle pain and headaches. Symptoms typically begin two to seven days after infection by a carrier mosquito, and there is no preventive vaccine.
New Yorkers can reduce the chance of infection by eliminating standing water in tires and other items where mosquitoes breed.
Global health experts estimate that only one in five people infected with Zika virus actually get sick.